Technology

Ebola tracking system for Sierra Leone offered by IBM

Heat map of Ebola-related issues Image copyright IBM Research
Image caption A heat map showing Ebola-related issues reported by citizens of Freetown, Sierra Leone.

IBM will put its super-computing data crunching to use in Sierra Leone, as part of the fight against the deadly disease Ebola.

It has launched a system which allows citizens to report Ebola-related issues and government, health agencies and others to keep track of the disease.

Citizens can use SMS or voice calls that are location-specific.

The data will then be analysed to identify correlations and highlight issues.

Image copyright IBM Research
Image caption The system is easy for citizens to use

Already, regions with growing numbers of suspected Ebola cases have been pinpointed and the delivery of urgent supplies such as soap and electricity have been sped up.

"We saw the need to quickly develop a system to enable communities directly affected by Ebola to provide valuable insight about how to fight it," explained Dr Uyi Stewart, chief scientist of IBM Research in Africa.

"Using mobile technology, we have given them a voice and a channel to communicate their experiences directly to the government."

Khadija Sesay, director of Sierra Leone's open government initiative, said it had helped "open up a channel with the general public so that we can learn from their input and create actionable policies in the fight against Ebola".

Radio broadcasts are being used to encourage people to use the system and telco operator Airtel has set up a free number via which citizens are able to send SMS messages.

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